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Interesting story marred by uneven writing and lack of interactivity, May 5, 2018

(Disclosure: I participated in Ectocomp 2017.)

YOUR PARTY IS DEAD grabbed me with its title, and the plot is pretty interesting, though far from cheerful (obviously the game was written for Hallowe'en, but I found it more depressing than scary). It presents an unpleasant situation, and made me identify with the PC's desperation to get out of it. The use of intentional boredom is well handled: making the reader experience boredom without feeling bored is very hard, but the monotony of the PC's undeath is handled well here and doesn't outstay its welcome. While I don't quite understand the reasons for why the ending turns out as it does, it is unexpected and ties in nicely with what came before.

Unfortunately, the writing quality fluctuates a bit. A lot of that can probably be laid at the door of the time limit, because there are some genuinely nice, emotionally intense moments, while others feel dull. "Show, don't tell" is an overused piece of writing advice, but I feel it's particularly warranted in IF: in static fiction, there are times when telling the reader how a character feels are the best option, but in IF, the reader takes the role of a character and thus really should never need to be told how they feel. In YOUR PARTY IS DEAD, there are several instances of the PC being told how they panic, scream, etc., when letting the situation speak for itself would be more effective.

Another issue is the lack of interactivity. The author is upfront about this, but it's still rather jarring: there is a single instance where the player can choose multiple options, and they all lead to the same continuation, and there are other instances where options would seem logical, even if they would simply lead to failure. Again, this is a function of the short time-frame. An expanded version with all the branching and multiple endings the author originally wanted would be interesting.

Tonally, there is some fluctuation as well. The blurb and monochrome-and-red palette made me expect something either teen-angsty or genuinely distressing, but there are also adventuring parties straight out of a derivative RPG, complete with a bard who speaks in rhyme. That makes it hard to pinpoint just how seriously this story wants to be taken.

The NPCs are not deep, though they feel sympathetic enough to explain the PCs feelings for them. Oddly, the NPC I liked best was the Bat Dragon, (Spoiler - click to show)again, it's not a groundbreaking character, but it gets quite a bit of charm and pathos in some of the well-written passages.

On a technical level, the dark palette feels suitable, but the (custom-made?) font is a bit rough, with small Fs looking identical to capital ones and unnecessarily tall colons. There are a few typoes, but again, that's to be expected from a Petite Morte game.

In short, a fairly engaging but completely non-interactive dark fantasy story, with writing that isn't quite up to the task, despite some good passages. Worth giving a try if you're in the mood.

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